On a Sunday nights at our “Gathering” we try and run a full church service. We sing, pray, read the Bible, have the Lord’s Supper, recite one of the creeds, have a message and an offering. We do not pass a plate, bowl or bag around. Rather we have a bowl near the front door and anyone who would like to place a love offering into it is welcome to do so. The question that arose was “What do we do with the money?” We put this into our minds and thought about it for a week and then various suggests were made such as to use the money for the meal, yet in the end we decided (correctly) that we send this money to a missionary.
Then the question arose, “Which missionary?” Someone was mandated to investigate options and a few names were provided of which we chose a single lady who teaches English in a far Eastern Country. She is South African and has a George Whitefield College degree and has worked in two REACH-SA Churches before going into missions. What was remarkable is that everyone in our small evening gathering supported the idea to send the collection to her. The decision is to keep the offerings until we have a certain amount and then forward it to the mission organization she works for, for her. What we will send will not cover anything big such as travel tickets or rental, but it will fill a gap along the way.
Giving in this way finds its authenticity in the Word of God to the Church at Corinth. Read chapters 8 and 9. The context is a collection for the struggling and suffering Christians and Church Leaders in Jerusalem. They needed outside assistance to survive because their faith in Christ created server persecution from the Jews (even family) causing abject poverty. It was and is Christian and Gospel to help brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer because of their faith in Christ and their faithfulness to the Gospel.
In chapter 8:1 we are introduced to the most humbling illustration of sacrificial giving because of what Christ has done. The Macedonia Church were poor Churches (v2), but because they were given “grace” (v1), they pleaded most urgently (v4) to be permitted the privilege of helping the Lord’s People (v4). In all my 40 years of ministry I have never ever had anyone plead to be able to contribute financially to support struggling Christians or struggling missionaries.
What is interesting is that even in their serve trial (v2), a tension was generated … between the extreme poverty and overflowing joy of salvation causing rich generosity (v2). Then this rich generosity is described in v3 as “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” They dug deep. They overlooked their needs and saw greater needs in Jerusalem. Their salvation was proved through their sacrifice … no one forced or coerced them … no one used emotional stories to draw them into giving. It was their personal choice and decision (v3). In fact the passion was so great they actually pleaded for what was seen as a “privilege” (v4) of participating because the Lord’s people were their eternal family.
Before you think this radical … look at verse 5 … “they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” Right here is the answer to why in such poverty … why under such trail they gave so sacrificially. “They gave themselves first to the Lord” … when one does this it means that your view of the materials, resources and reserves you might have is actually God’s, on loan to be used for His glory.
Ps 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Now Paul shifts his focus to the Corinthians in verse 7 by encouraging them to “excel in the grace of giving.” In the previous collection (the previous year), they were the first to give and most generously … but somehow seemed to be slow this year.
In asking them to “excel in the grace of giving” it seems as though Paul wants them to feel the weight of what he said in verse 1 about the grace God grace the Macedonians … the grace of rich generosity (v2). Although he refers to what Jesus did for them (v9) … which ought to inspire them to give, he wants them to honour their commitment to give and … “finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” (v11-12).
Willingness to give is only realized once the giving has been done … and then the gift, irrespective of the size is acceptable. What seems so otherworldly is the concept of equality in verses 13-15. This goes all the way back to the Israelites collecting manna in the desert wanderings. Equality does not mean everyone has the same amount … but that everyone has something. Then the method of giving is important. Although generosity is encouraged, giving grudgingly is discouraged. (9:5). To this end Paul reminds them (and us) that you reap what you sow (9:6)!
Giving is sowing, and the more generous you are the more the more fruit you will reap. This fruit might not be financial or material. More likely, it will be spiritual for through your giving you are investing in the Eternal Kingdom of God. So, like the Macedonians, you need to decide the size of your gift without being forced or coerced … because God loves a cheerful giver (9:7). In return, God will see to it that you are never without! (v8). Paul ends chapter 9 with verse 15: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
In other words … before they (and you and me) can allow pride to enter because of the size of our giving, remember God’s gift … it is indescribable! In eternal terms, can you ever put a price on a soul? What about on all the souls of saved people from creation to Jesus’ Second Coming? Jesus died to pay the sin price … the redemption price of all these souls. It is impossible to put a price on Jesus’ Substitutional Death at Calvary … it is indescribable … the gift of God is indescribable! These chapters deal with God’s method to assist the poor believers in Jerusalem and their Christian workers. Giving to missions is important. This passage validates it!
Dear God, You are a Missionary God … every fiber of Your Being is Evangelistic … and You use people to do this ministry. Grant me an evangelistic heart and an evangelistic pocket so that I’ll freely and willingly give. Amen.